Monday, March 31, 2008

Happy Birthday!

We arrived safely in Koutiala! Thankfully we had no more problems with the car. We're staying in the same room at the YWAM base we had last year when we were at the conference so we're feeling at home.

Unfortunately, the person John was supposed to meet with to begin the Internet installations hasn't arrived yet so John has been delayed in his work. However, he's been plenty busy. As soon as we arrived, he was presented with several computer issues that needed fixing. He spent today working at people's houses to solve their technical issues. He hopes to begin the Internet installations tomorrow...unfortunately, this leaves just one day before the conference starts to do 3 installations...including placing equipment atop the base's 40 foot antenna tower.

Today is also John's birthday. Our friend Leigh took us out to a wonderful chicken restaurant in town. It was a quiet but nice birthday celebration.

Friday, March 28, 2008

We Interrupt This Program...

We were about a half an hour outside of Bamako yesterday on our way to Koutiala when our car began to sputter and stall. We turned around and headed back home. Our car stopped several times along the way but we finally made it back. It turns out that the fuel pump on our car went bad. We are so thankful it happened close to home and not out in the middle of the bush!

We took it to our mechanic and he was able to get a new one installed. Visiting our mechanic is interesting. He is Chinese and doesn't speak French...but he does speak Bambara. Our Bambara isn't good enough to communicate with him so we go through a Malian translator at his shop that translates from our broken French into a mixture of Bambara and Chinese. But is seems to work...he has been keeping our car healthy.

The person John was going to work with in Koutiala on the Internet installations is in Bamako this weekend and our YWAM meetings don't start until Wednesday, so we have delayed our trip until Sunday. John will do his computer work on Monday and Tuesday.

The delay has been a good thing. John is still very tired and worn out from jet lag. The night before our trip he didn't get to sleep until 5am. We were going to leave at 10am. This gave him very little sleep before our long drive. We are happy he has more time to adjust to the time change. We also have a couple of people staying at our house from Timbuktu. We're glad we can be here with them and host their visit.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

On the Road Again

Cole and Julie have been out of school for Easter break and we've been enjoying some good family time. For Easter, we attended Eglise Bamako-Coura - the main Protestant church downtown. Normally there are 2 services (1 Bambara and 1 French), but for Easter they combined the services. We were planning on attending the 2nd service, so we ended up arriving late. The church was full to capacity and a lot of chairs were set up outside. In fact, there were so many people, we had to stand outside the church property next to the street. Room did eventually open up in the sanctuary after the choir finished and left the building. We were then escorted into very good seats where they were sitting. It was a wonderful Easter service with excellent music and a very good Easter message. We trust you had a fulfilling Easter celebration too.

Tomorrow (Thursday), it's travel time again. This time we get to go as a family! We will be driving to Koutiala...about 5 hours outside of Bamako. This is the road we were traveling when we had our accident in 2003. Please keep our travel in prayer. This is the first time we've driven the road ourselves since the accident (we've ridden with others since). It's also the first time we've taken our car out of the city on the big trip.

We will be attending our annual YWAM Mali conference next week. The staff (65+ people) from our four YWAM locations in Mali will be coming together for this yearly event. It's always good to see people from our other bases and hear about all the cool things happening around YWAM Mali. We'll report some of the top items after we hear them.

John is also going to be doing a seminar about copyright and piracy. He's also doing a couple of Internet installations for YWAM Koutiala. It's going to be a busy couple of weeks, but we're hoping to have some good family time for relaxing and reconnecting too.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Just Got Back From the USA

John arrived back in Bamako on Thursday night. The travel was very quiet and uneventful. The time John spent in the States was very refreshing and he developed some good relationships in the process. He was sorry he didn't have more time and the chance to see more people. But the good news is, we will be returning to California as a family for a 2 month visit this summer. We are looking forward to seeing you. Please be sure to contact us and let us know when and where to arrange a time to get together. Also, we are looking for housing this summer in SoCal...preferably in the OC. If you know of anything available (someone going on vacation or looking for a housesitter), please let us know.

Thank you to all John had a chance to visit with. He appreciates the time and companionship shared with you.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The OC

John has really been enjoying his time in Southern California. He's been able to connect with a few people and share what's happening in our ministry in Mali. Last night, he had dinner at El Torito with our Sunday school class from our home church. A surprise came yesterday when he bumped into one of his former business partners by chance while having lunch.

Today was family day and lunch with his day. Tonight, he had dinner with more people from Rose Drive at BJ's Pizza in Balboa. And to top it off, they stopped for Balboa Bars at Daddy's on Balboa Island. The food, friends, and fellowship have been wonderful. In between, John's also been able to squeeze in a couple of shopping trips to get some missed items not available in Mali.

Julie and Cole are doing well in Mali. They have been hosting people in our home all week and have enjoyed the company while John has been gone.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

0 Miles From Disneyland

It's just not a visit to Southern California without a trip to Disneyland. John had a chance to spend the day with his brother Jeremy who works at Disneyland. They had a wonderful time sharing the day together and catching up. As an added bonus, John invited some other visiting missionaries from Rose Drive to join him for a day at the park. The Strietzel family is serving with MAF in Uganda. But we know them from a few years ago when they served with us in Mali. Julie was their kid's school teacher.

It was a surprise to find out that Rose Drive invited the Strietzel family for the missions conference this year too. It was exciting to see them again and reconnect after several years. The Strietzel's had never been to Disneyland before, so John and Jeremy had a good time showing them around the park and giving them a "Power Disneyland" trip getting them on all the major attractions in just a few hours.

Monday, March 10, 2008

You've Got A Friend In Me

John has arrived in California. He has been spending most of his time sharing with different groups at Rose Drive Friends Church in Yorba Linda. As one of our supporting churches, they offered to fly John out to speak at their missions conference. He was given the opportunity to speak at their Saturday night and Sunday morning services. Here are links to the video and audio messages if you'd like to hear John's presentation. In addition, he has also had opportunities to attend the Rose Drive Missions Banquet and speak at a couple of small group meetings. He's also had several lunch and dinner meetings with people from the church. We have been wanting to draw closer to Rose Drive. This trip has been a wonderful opportunity to get to know a lot of people and begin some great relationships.

Back in Bamako, Julie and Cole continue on at school. As John is "freezing" in the sub-80s temperatures in California, Julie and Cole are hunkering down as hot season is beginning with temps approaching 110° daily. There have been a lot of power problems recently with the electricity going out for 6-7 hours each day. There was also a bit a excitement today when our new kitten Purrcilla began choking on a piece of food. But Julie came running to the rescue and performed the Heimlich Maneuver. The food piece went shooting across the room and Purrcilla is now doing fine. Missionary life: saving souls and saving lives.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Just a Quick Whistle Stop

The past couple of days have been very busy as John transitions from Timbuktu to California. It is wonderful to be back together as a family again...but it's for such a brief time. John is leaving tonight on Air France and arriving in California tomorrow (Thursday) afternoon. He is eager to see as many people as possible. Please feel free to email him at jclark@ywammali.org or call his U.S. cellphone at 714-618-1184 if you'd like to get together.

We've spent some time catching up on the blog with all the Timbuktu events. Because we've backfilled things a few days, be sure to read back from the message through the past week or so to find out all about Timbuktu.

Please be in prayer for John as he travels and works through a very busy schedule. Also, please be praying for Julie and Cole who will be surviving in Mali without John. Oh yes...and hot season has just arrived. Yuck!!

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The Long Road Home

It's hard to believe the FEET 2008 conference is over already! It's gone by very quickly. I (John) must admit that I wasn't looking forward to traveling to Timbuktu...but the conference was well worth it and I'm happy I made the trip.

I am leaving for California on Wednesday, so I had to hurry home to make the transition. The conference didn't end until 11:30 pm Sunday night and I had a lot to take down before I left. I finally made it home at 2 am. I was able to arrange transportation to make it back in one day. But to do so, I had to leave at 4:30 am on Monday. This meant only 2 hours sleep before the trip.

I made the first half of the trip home in a 4X4 from our YWAM base in Koutiala. We had 6 people crammed into the car. It was very "cozy"...just what you need in 110° heat...and we didn't have A/C. We made it to the first ferry crossing at 6 am. Soon after we got off the ferry, we had a tough drive through the sand. We saw one car stuck in sand but all of the cars that were on our ferry were able to make it through the toughest part. It was a rough and tumble drive back to Doutenza...6 hours and 120 miles to the paved road. We were all very happy to make it back to pavement. From there we had another 4 hours of driving where I was dropped off with a couple of other people who traveled back with me by bus to Bamako.

I haven't ridden the big long distance buses before. I was happy to have some traveling companions on my first trip. The bus was a lot more comfortable than I thought it would be...especially after being crammed in a small car for the past 12 hours. The bus did break down several times along the way, but the driver was able to get us back on the road usually in a half an hour to forty-five minutes. The bus did stop at Muslim prayer time and everyone got off to pray by the side of the road. I guess it was easy to figure out who us Christians were because we stayed in the bus.

With the breakdown delays, we did finally arrive in Bamako at 2am Tuesday morning. It was a very long, but uneventful and smooth trip home. Thank you very much for your prayers for the FEET 2008 conference and my travel safety.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Buried Treasure

There's a game on the internet called GeoCaching. People will hide a small box with a few trinkets and items then mark the GPS coordinates and post them on a GeoCache website for others to see. People will then go out and try to find the box. When they do, they take out one of the small items and replace it with something else.

We hid a GeoCache in Timbuktu on our first trip back in 2001. We were to first one to place a cache in the Mysterious City. Unfortunately, it disappeared soon after we left. I (John) did have time on Sunday afternoon to hide another cache near our conference site. Here's a link to it Timbuktu GeoCache. If you ever make it out to Timbuktu, be sure to look for it!

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Alone in the Desert

The conference is going very well. We have been sharing in some wonderful worship, praise, and prayer times. Timbuktu is a very spiritually dark city and the goal of this conference is to have as many people as possible from all over the world come and physically plant their feet on the sand of the city and pray in earnest for the people, the government, the city, and the region of North Africa.

Our attendance has been wonderful. Keep in mind that Timbuktu is located far away from anywhere -- hundreds of miles in the middle of the Sahara Desert. But we have people from all over the world that have come to be a part of the FEET 2008 conference. In all, we have people from 25 different countries which represent 5 continents! The only continent we're missing is Asia. There was supposed to be a Korean girl here, but she got sick at the last minute and wasn't able to make it.

The conference is being conducted in both French and English. The music has been wonderful and the prayer time feels especially powerful. There is something about being isolated out in the desert away from all the distractions to focus our time and energies 100% on the Lord. Looking back at the Bible, we can now see what a big part the desert plays in God's relationship with His people. So many of our Biblical heroes spent a lot of time in the desert...now we can understand why.